I'm being silly, Reenie told herself. It's just a street. Big deal.
But something inside her disagreed.
"You don't believe all those dumb stories about Fear Street—do you?" Marc asked.
"Some bad things have happened here," Greta said softly. "I saw a story about them on TV."
They fell silent. Good, Reenie thought. She didn't want to hear about all the strange murders and disappearances.
Marc turned left. He seemed to be heading right into the Fear Street Woods.
"You can't drive through here!" Greta yelled. "It's only an old bike path or something."
The car bumped along the uneven ground.
"What are you doing?" Sean demanded.
"You'll see," Marc replied.
"Yeah, you'll see," Artie echoed.
Fear Lake was not a place Reenie wanted to go at night with Marc Bentley. She promised herself she would never ride with him again. Anywhere. Ever.
Marc pulled onto a narrow dirt road that circled the lake. The engine growled powerfully as the car started up a hill. Reenie stared out the window at the woods.
The trees appeared lifeless. Dead stalks sticking up through the snow. Marc pulled to a stop when they reached the crest of the hill.
Reenie knew this spot. They were high above the frozen lake. A short distance to the left stretched a steep drop-off.
"Come on," Marc urged, climbing out of the car. "Let's have some fun."
Artie leaped out and slammed the door. Reenie, Sean, and Greta hesitated, then reluctantly joined Marc and Artie.
"This way." Marc led them through the leafless trees, snow crunching beneath their feet. The moon shone full and bright. Reenie had no trouble seeing where they were going.
Marc stopped. "This is the place."
They stood at the edge of the sheer drop-off. Below them the lake's frozen, snowdrifted surface glowed an eerie silver in the moonlight.
"You've got to get right up to the edge," Marc explained. He stepped to within a few inches of the drop-off and peered down. It made Reenie feel jittery just watching him.
"There it is," Marc announced.
The snow-covered ground was slippery. Reenie had no intention of getting that close to the edge. Sean and Greta stayed back beside her.
"You can't see it unless you get closer," Marc insisted. "Come on, guys—there's nothing to be scared of."
And then his foot slipped.
His arms circled frantically as he fought for balance.
But there was nothing for him to grab except the frosty night air.
His feet slid off the edge.
Artie reached for him.
Marc screamed as he plunged from sight.
Chapter 10 THIN ICE
"Marc!" Artie wailed. "Marc! Marc! Marc!" He repeated his name in a shrill, frantic chant.
Reenie froze in horror.
This isn't happening, she thought. Marc didn't just fall over the edge.
But the others were screaming and crying, their faces twisted in surprise—and panic.
It did happen, Reenie realized.
But he's okay. Okay. Okay.
He's got to be okay.
Trembling in terror, seeing Marc fall again and again, hearing his scream repeat in her ears, Reenie didn't realize that she had moved.
Had stepped forward.
Had stepped to the edge.
To see down? To see that Marc was okay?
She didn't realize she had moved. Until she felt the ground crumble beneath her. Until she saw a rock break off and fall.
Until she felt herself start to slide.
She heard the sharp cries of her friends. But they sounded so far away now.
For she was falling, sliding and tumbling, down the snowy hillside.
She could still hear their cries as she hit the icy surface of Fear Lake. "Ohhh!" She let out a cry as she landed on her back with a thud.
It knocked the breath out of her. She struggled to gasp in air. She tossed up her hands as she slid, slid across the ice, slid out onto the frozen lake.
Her heart pounding, her breath coming in short, wheezing pants, Reenie pushed herself up. The ice felt firm beneath her shoes.
She raised her eyes to the hill and saw Sean and the others running down, slipping, tumbling, calling to her.
She cupped her hands around her mouth. "I'm okay," she called back. Was she trembling?
No. The ice beneath her quivered.
A crack rang out, shattering the stillness of the winter night.
The ice is thin, she realized.
Reenie held perfectly still. If I move very slowly and carefully, I can edge my way over to the shore.
She slid her left foot forward, struggling to keep her balance. She exhaled.
So far, so good. Keep moving.
She dragged her right foot up beside the left.
She stopped. And heard Sean's frantic voice: "Reenie! Stop!"
Startled, she jerked her head up, lost her balance, and fell onto the ice.
Reenie's hip smashed against the hard surface. She let out a small moan of pain.
Then she heard another crack. Louder this time.
The ice beneath her gave way with a groan.
She slid into the freezing, black water.
Reenie shot up her hands. Reached out. Struggled to grab something. Anything.
She grabbed the edge of the hole. But the ice broke under her fingers.
Hands still grasping, she felt herself being pulled down, swallowed up by the lake.
She went under.
The frozen water shocked her body. She thrashed her arms, trying to pull herself back up to the surface.
Up, up. She struggled to pull herself up.
But her head hit the underside of the ice.
I can't breathe, she realized.
She pounded on the ice with her fists. Clawed at it.
Where is the hole? she asked herself. Where is the hole I fell through?
She couldn't find it.
I'm trapped. Trapped under the ice.
Her last thought before the blackness engulfed her.
Chapter 11 "I THINK HE KNOWS"
I can't breathe.
Reenie gasped for air.
She choked. Coughed up water.
Reenie could hear Sean's voice. He sounded so far away.
"You're all right, Reenie," Sean was saying. "You're all right."
She opened her eyes and found Sean leaning over her. His face inches from hers.
"I thought… I thought that you had drowned." Sean's voice shook. He straightened up, and Reenie saw Artie and Greta behind him.
"Sean saved you," Greta explained "He reached in and pulled you out. Then he gave you mouth-to-mouth."
"That was the fun part," Sean joked. But Reenie noticed his voice still didn't sound quite steady.
Reenie forced herself to sit up. "What happened to Marc? Is he okay?"
"I'm right here." A low voice from behind her.
Reenie turned—and pain jarred her temples.
Marc met her gaze. "Sorry," he muttered. "It was just a dumb joke."
"And Artie helped him plan it!" Greta chimed in angrily. "He told Marc about the jokes we play on each other, and they planned the whole thing."
"Hey, come on, guys. We didn't mean for anyone to get hurt," Artie insisted. "Marc and I go down that hill all the time—just for fun. It's like a big snow slide. When Marc faked that fall, he just slid to the bottom."
Artie turned to Greta. "We never slid that far out on the ice. Really. I don't know what happened…" His voice trailed off.
"Can you stand up?" Sean asked Reenie.
Reenie groaned. "I'll try."
Sean grabbed her hands and slowly pulled her to her feet. Reenie's legs trembled, but she kept her balance.
"Give me your coats," Sean ordered the others. "Reenie is freezing."
Sean yanked off his own coat and wrapped it around her. Then he layered the other coats on top.
A shudder shook Reenie's whole body. She couldn't feel her hands and feet. Totally numb.
Sean wrapped his arm around her waist. "Let's get you home so you can get into some dry clothes and warm up."
Greta hurried to Reenie's other side and grabbed her arm. "Wow. I'm glad you're okay. I was really scared," Greta told her.
"Follow me," Artie said. "There's a place over here where we can climb back up."
Reenie's teeth were chattering by the time she reached the car. Marc cranked the heater up full blast, but she couldn't stop shivering.
I had the strongest feeling that something bad would happen if we kept playing the dumb jokes on each other, Reenie remembered. Sure enough, something bad happened to me.
Now, is this the end of it?
"Sean called to you because he knew if you kept trying to walk, the ice would crack," Greta told Reenie in the cafeteria the next day. "When you fell, he got flat on the ice. Then he sort of wiggled and slid himself up to the hole so he could reach in and grab you."
Greta shivered. "I was so scared. And we couldn't help him. We were afraid the ice would break if we got too close."
Reenie took a bite of salad. "I can hardly believe it really happened," she told Greta.
"Well, it did. And it was Artie's fault."
Reenie saw Sean with his lunch tray. She waved and pointed to the empty seat across from her.
"Artie had no way of knowing I'd slip and fall," she reminded her friend.
Sean slid into the spot next to Greta.
"It was still a horrible thing to do," Greta insisted.
"What?" Sean asked. He scooped up a forkful of bright orange macaroni and cheese.
"Greta's furious at Artie for what happened yesterday," Reenie replied.
"It was an accident," Sean protested.
Greta leaped to her feet. "I'm going to go get an icecream bar," Greta announced. "I'll be right back."
She must be really upset, Reenie thought. Greta hardly ever ate dessert. But when she felt bad, she always headed for chocolate.
"What's her problem?" Sean asked.
"She and Artie are always fighting," Reenie told him. "She hates the way he acts when he hangs out with Marc Bentley. She's afraid Artie might drop out of school and get a job where Marc works."
"Could happen, I guess. Artie's family needs cash right now. But Artie hasn't mentioned dropping out to me." Sean shoveled in more of the macaroni and cheese.
Reenie played with her salad, pushing the celery and carrots into separate piles with her fork. She wasn't hungry. She kept remembering the panic she felt when she struggled to the surface of Fear Lake—and hit the wall of ice.
She couldn't force it from her mind.
Reenie glanced up at Sean and found him staring over her shoulder with an odd expression on his face. "Check it out," he murmured.
Reenie turned and scanned the room. At first she couldn't figure out what Sean wanted her to see. Then she saw Greta and P.J. standing close together at the back of the lunchroom. So engrossed in conversation they seemed unaware of anything but each other.
Sean turned back to Reenie. "I don't believe it," he whispered. "Greta and P.J. Is that a weird couple—or what?"
"She likes weird guys. What can I say?" Reenie risked another quick peek at Greta and P.J. Greta was laughing hard, and P.J. appeared pleased with himself.
"I think Artie and Greta will make up," Reenie declared. "They've been going together forever."
"Maybe," Sean agreed. "But Artie is not going to be too happy if he finds Greta flirting with another guy."
"Uh-oh," Reenie whispered. "I think he knows."
She nodded toward the big double doors at the front of the cafeteria.
Artie stood there, glaring across the room at Greta and P.J. His hands clenched into fists. His face taut with anger.
Reenie raised a hand to her mouth as she watched Artie lurch toward Greta and P.J.
Please don't do anything stupid, Reenie silently begged.
Chapter 12 Danger AHEAD
"I've got to stop him," Sean told her. He jumped to his feet and hurried over to Artie.
Reenie kept her eyes on Greta. Greta hadn't noticed Artie yet. She tenderly brushed a lock of hair off P.J.'s forehead and smiled at him.
Reenie turned back toward Artie. Sean appeared to be calming Artie down. Artie's hands relaxed at his sides. His face returned to its usual color. Then Sean slapped him on the shoulder, and Artie whirled around and stalked out the double doors of the cafeteria.
Sean knew exactly what to say to him, Reenie thought. But I'll bet Greta and Artie will have a huge fight the next time they are together. I hope I'm not around to watch it.
"I thought Artie was going to go ballistic!" Sean exclaimed as he sat back down across from Reenie. "I told him he'd look like a jerk if he got into a fight in the lunchroom.
"Wow. He looked scary," Reenie said. "I wouldn't want Artie mad at me!"
The bell rang, and Sean chugged the rest of his soda. "Remember, I can't drive you home today," he told her. "I have a chess club meeting."
Not exactly walking weather, Reenie thought after her last class. Dark and wet out. It will probably snow before I make it home.
She wandered over to the student parking lot, hoping she could find someone to give her a ride.
Reenie gasped as she felt a cold, damp hand squeeze her neck. She spun around and found Liz grinning at her.
"Sorry, I couldn't resist," Liz told her.
"Aren't you freezing?" Reenie demanded. Every button on Liz's coat was open. And she wasn't wearing a sweater—only a thin blouse.
"No," Liz answered. "I love the cold."
Reenie hated gray winter days. They seemed to wash the color out of everything.
Everything except Liz's hair, Reenie noticed. I'd kill for hair like that, she thought. All those coppery highlights.
"I heard what happened to you yesterday!" Liz exclaimed. "Wow. Scary."
"Really scary," Reenie declared. "How are you and P.J. doing at Shadyside?" she asked, changing the subject. She didn't want to think about the accident.
"Great," Liz answered. "It's hard to believe I didn't know anyone but P.J. a month ago."
Reenie found it hard to believe, too. Liz had become a good friend. Reenie felt as though she had known Liz for much longer than a month.
"Well, I guess P.J.'s not exactly doing so great," Liz confessed. "He's so awkward and shy. It's hard for him to approach people."
"I've noticed," Reenie commented.
"It's not really P.J.'s fault, you know," Liz said.
Not sure what to say, Reenie didn't respond. They started across the parking lot, slipping between a Jeep and an old Chevy.
"P.J.'s not well," Liz went on.
"What's wrong with him?"
"He's frail. He can't do physical things."
"Maybe he should work out or something—build up his strength," Reenie suggested.
"You don't understand. He's got a heart murmur. He can't work out or anything like that. He's excused from PE."
"How… how serious is it?"
"He's okay as long as he doesn't do physical stuff."
Reenie felt guilty for all the mean things she had been thinking about P.J. She decided to try to make him feel more welcome at Shadyside High.
"Greta and P.J. seem to have a lot to talk about," Reenie observed.
"I wish he would ask her out. But I'm afraid he's too shy. He's never worked up the courage to ask any girl out."
"He's never gone out with a girl—ever?" Reenie asked, surprised.
"Never. But don't tell anyone, okay? P.J. would be really bummed if it got around."
"I won't," Reenie promised. "I think it would be great for P.J. to go out with someone," Reenie continued slowly. "But Greta's still going with Artie, so…"
Reenie heard footsteps behind her and turned around. She found Ty hurrying to catch up to them.
"Hey. Where you guys headed?" he called breathlessly.
"Nowhere special," Liz replied.
Ty has a car, Reenie remembered. At last. A ride.
"Liz…" Ty hesitated.
"Could I ask you something?"
Oh, no, Reenie thought. Ty's finally decided to ask Liz out, and I'm standing here like her chaperon.
She checked her watch. "Listen, you guys, I've got to run. I'll catch you later, okay?"
"Okay," Liz replied. "See you tomorrow."
"Later," Ty said.
Reenie moved deeper into the parking lot. It's emptying out fast, she thought. Isn't there anyone here I can catch a ride with?
A red car squealed to a stop in front of her. Marc Bentley's red car.
I'd rather freeze to death, Reenie told herself.
Artie rolled down the window. "Reenie—yo! Look what I'm driving. Need a ride?"
"No, thanks," Reenie called. Even without Marc behind the wheel, she didn't want another ride in the red car. "I think I'm going to walk. I need the exercise."
"It's going to storm," Artie warned.
A gust of wind sent freezing air down the back of her coat collar. She shivered, the chill reminding her of last night. The frigid water of Fear Lake.
Knowing she was going to drown.
"Hop in," Artie urged.
Reenie glanced around the parking lot. Artie's my only chance for a ride. "Okay," Reenie answered reluctantly. She climbed in.
"Where's Greta this afternoon?" Reenie asked. Artie scowled. Dumb question, she thought. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
"She brought her own car today," Artie replied through clenched teeth. He peeled out of the exit and roared away from the school.
I wish I'd known that, Reenie thought. I could have ridden home with her. Reenie realized she'd barely spoken to Greta the entire day—just those few minutes in the cafeteria.
Artie pushed down on the gas. Reenie made sure her seat belt was fastened properly. Artie's driving made her nervous.
Artie pulled to a stop in front of a red light. "Hey, Reenie…"
"Last night… you know. I didn't mean for you to fall."
Reenie sighed. "I know."
"I wanted to go out on the ice with Sean. Help pull you up. But we thought the ice might break some more."
"I know that, Artie."
"Good. Watch this." The light turned green. Artie floored the gas pedal. The tires squealed as the powerful car shot forward.
"It's okay, Reenie!" Artie yelled. "I drive a lot better than Marc!"
Artie sped down the road into another intersection. Horns blared. Tires squealed.
"Look out!" Reenie shrieked.
Chapter 13 NOT P.J.!
Reenie's scream stuck in her throat.
She heard metal slam against metal. Shattering glass.
The car spun, slamming her into the door.
She heard someone screaming. Far away.
Felt the seat belt biting into her stomach, as she was thrown forward. Then she lurched back against the seat.
Reenie tasted blood in her mouth. Metallic and salty.
I bit my tongue, she realized. That's all. I just bit my tongue.
The car shuddered to a stop.
"You okay?" Artie groaned.
"Yeah—I think so." Reenie peered out the window. She couldn't see much. Cracks covered the glass like a huge spiderweb.
She shoved open the door and leaned out. A sharp, sour taste hit the back of her throat. She swallowed hard.
A green van had smashed into the rear door. On my side, Reenie thought. Two feet from where I'm sitting.
Reenie slowly climbed out of the car. Her legs felt as though she had run up and down the gym bleachers a hundred times. They wouldn't stop trembling.
Artie hurried over to Reenie. "Oh, wow!" Artie groaned, staring at the caved-in door. "Marc is going to kill me."
Where's the van driver? Reenie wondered.
Then she saw him. Still in the van. A dark shape slumped over the wheel.
"Hey, are you okay?" she called.
The driver didn't reply. Didn't move.
"Are you okay?" Reenie called again. Oh, no. I hope he's not hurt, Reenie thought. She hurried to the van and yanked open the door. Gently she pulled the driver back against the seat.
She sucked in her breath.
"Huh?" A startled cry escaped her lips as she saw his face.
P.J.! The van driver was P.J.
Reenie remembered what Liz told her—about P.J.'s having a heart murmur. She felt for his pulse. "Please be all right. Please!" she begged.
P.J.'s eyes fluttered open and he turned his head toward Reenie. "Are you hurt?" she cried.
But he didn't answer. He seemed totally bewildered. Barely conscious.
"Oh, no, I don't believe it!" Artie cried, striding up beside Reenie.
"Artie—he's hurt," Reenie said.
"You creep!" he snarled at P.J. "Look what you did! You plowed right into me. Marc's going to kill me!"
P.J. didn't react.
He's still dazed, Reenie saw.
Artie slammed the side of the van with his fist. "You ran a stop sign!" he screamed. "Don't you know how to drive? What's wrong with you!"
Reenie slipped between Artie and P.J. "Calm down," she urged. "Please."
Artie grabbed her by the shoulders. He stared at her, his eyes cold. "Why is everyone always defending him?" he demanded. "What's so special about P.J.?" Artie's fingers dug into her skin. She could feel his hot breath on her face. "Huh, Reenie? Why does everyone love little P.J.?"
Reenie didn't answer. She concentrated on meeting Artie's gaze. She knew if Artie decided to go for P.J., she wouldn't be able to stop him.
Artie, leave P.J. alone, she thought. Leave him alone. It's not his fault you and Greta are always fighting.
A horn honked behind them—loud and long.
Artie let go of Reenie and backed away, shaking his head.
Whew! That was close, Reenie thought. Relief raced through her as she watched Artie climb back into the car.
Artie stuck his head out the window. "I'm not going to forget this, P.J.!" he yelled. Then he peeled away, his tires squealing.
Reenie turned to P.J. "Are you okay?" she asked softly. He nodded. His eyes seemed clearer. "Okay as I'll ever be," he told her glumly.
"Marc went totally ballistic over what Artie did to his car," Greta told the others the next day at lunch.
"I don't blame him," Sean muttered.
"It wasn't Artie's fault," Reenie reminded them. "P.J. ran the stop sign."
Reenie noticed Liz staring down at her plate. Poor Liz, she thought. It must be tough having a brother like P.J. She must feel she has to protect him all the time.
Reenie glanced over at Liz. Ty was leaning close to her, whispering something that made Liz smile a little. Reenie smiled, too. At least Liz and Ty are getting together, she thought. Now maybe Liz won't worry about P.J. all the time.
"Ever since Artie started running around with Marc, he acts crazy," Greta complained. "It's like Marc has turned him into another person."
"Are they still friends?" Ty asked. "I mean, after Artie wrecked his car and all?"
"I'm not sure," Greta answered.
"Maybe they won't run around together anymore," Liz suggested.
"I doubt it would make any difference," Greta replied. "Artie seems to have become permanently weird." She took a bite of her carrot, then tossed it down. "Okay, who has chocolate?" she demanded.
Reenie handed her half a chocolate chip cookie.
Sean cleared his throat. "I have a major announcement."
We could use a new topic of conversation, Reenie thought. Anything that doesn't involve P.J., Artie, or Marc.
"Reenie's parents are going to be away for a few days," Sean announced. "I'm trying to talk her into throwing a Christmas party."